Basketball: Episode 3
Not only does our hero experience the crushing sadness of losing his dream, he also loses his idealistic role model and his ability to be understood by those he loves most. The world as he once knew it is going forward without him, leaving San struggling to retain his moral center when all his makeshift family members would like nothing more than to see him brought down. Why? Because people love being terrible to others in this show—maybe it just comes with the time period.
Keep fighting the good fight, San. We’ve got you.
SONG OF THE DAY
Jung In – “Those Obvious Words (그 뻔한 말)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
As the crowd around her cheers for Chi-ho, a furious Byeo-ri yells, “No! Min Chi-ho is a bad person!” But when she adds that he’s a Japanese puppet, Chi-ho’s agent tries to level with her—if everyone believed he was an imperial propaganda machine, would they be cheering for him now?
But little Byeo-ri refuses to believe it as she thinks back to the last time she saw her father alive, when he’d assured her that everything was going to be okay because the famous Chi-ho endorsed the labor program, which we know now was a wartime atrocity committed by the colonial government.
And her dad, none the wiser, wanted to make money so that his beautiful daughter could marry well, but was never seen again. Back in the present, Byeo-ri cries, “Min Chi-ho is an awful man! My father was taken away from me because of him!”
Meanwhile, Bookie Gong’s men finally leave San’s friend alone, though it’s unclear whether he’ll live through the assault. Grandma is still alive, but just barely.
San confronts Gong in a fit of rage only to be blindsided when his hyung is all, “Oh, this was your home? I didn’t know! I really didn’t know!” Yeah right.
He acts like he wouldn’t have done what he did if he’d known, but all this comes off as so… fake. San sees through it, and when Bookie Gong tries to act like life will resume as normal after this, San says that it’s over between them.
That’s when Bookie Gong’s friendly demeanor changes, as he nonchalantly reminds San that he owes him a debt—and he’s not going anywhere until he pays it back.
Just when things aren’t looking great for Chi-ho’s team, he manages to steal the ball right before the opposing team can score. He’s agile as he makes his way back across the court, snaking his way around his opponents to sink the winning shot.
The crowd goes wild, but Chi-ho isn’t as enthused when he notices that Byeo-ri and Shin-young aren’t standing among them. Aww.
It turns out that Shin-young is driving Byeo-ri home after noticing her agitation at the game. Byeo-ri doesn’t want to answer any of her questions and demands that she stop the car, only it’s clear she’s never been in one and doesn’t know how to open the door.
Shin-young helps her, but Byeo-ri takes offense that Shin-young calls herself Byeo-ri’s unni, because she’s an only child. (More like she’s just saying that they’re not close enough for the term.)
But when Shin-young sees Byeo-ri walking through the snow in nothing but straw shoes, she attempts to follow her in order to give her money for a new pair… only to stop short when she sees Byeo-ri’s neighborhood. Like Chi-ho, the sight of the crude collection of tents takes her by surprise.
San’s mother returns home to find the neighborhood in shambles, but is even more taken aback when everyone pins the blame on her no-good son, whom we find breaking his back to try and earn money the honest way while getting paid next to nothing for it.
Daddy Choi’s secretary has offered to compensate the first ten families who move out of the shantytown in an effort to divide them, and it’s working as everyone fights over what to do. (But at least Grandma is still alive!)
Jo Hee-bong makes his first appearance this episode as a writer reading his work aloud for a gathering of the colonial elite to usher in a new Japanese inspector general. Cue fanfare.
Chi-ho is flabbergasted that Shin-young and Byeo-ri left before the game was even half over, and resolves to deal with Byeo-ri first.
But when he heads to her neighborhood, he finds Shin-young and her maid handing out new pairs of shoes to all the villagers. Chi-ho is kind of amazed at Shin-young even going so far as to help an elder blow his nose, because she looks like the type who’s never done anything like this before.
Byeo-ri is the only unenthused villager, and Shin-young approaches her with a new pair of shoes carefully, explaining that she’d always wanted a little sister and so she couldn’t help but consider Byeo-ri as a dongsaeng.
She apologizes if she offended her by calling herself unni, and you can tell that Byeo-ri is warming up to her no matter how cold she tries to act.
However, Chi-ho takes the wrong approach when he arrives. Though his intentions are good, he comes on a little strong when it comes to Byeo-ri, and she ends up tripping while trying to get away from him. (Well, I guess he did kidnap her earlier.)
Shin-young gives him what-for once she sees the girl bleeding, and Chi-ho ends up looking even worse when he was just trying to make himself look better.
Meanwhile, there’s a Bookie Gong/Restaurant Ajumma interlude (which are starting to function like the innkeepers in Chuno, as filler). San interrupts the merriment to toss Gong the money he owes, which he made from back-breaking labor, in order to settle their score.
But Bookie Gong throws the money back at him and brandishes the loan contract San signed—what he gave isn’t even enough to cover the interest. He invites San to come back to work for him while he’s asking nicely, since San doesn’t have anything else to his name but his pride.
That’s when San punches him and calls him on his bluff to take their matter to court, even if it could land San in prison. Either way, he’s done with Gong, but something tells me the bookie is far from done with him.
San returns to his village to find one family moving out in order to get the compensation promised. The grandma from earlier is unconscious and her oldest grandson (his friend) gone, but the youngest tries to push San away from his grandma now that San is one of the bad guys: “You made grandma like this!”
But San knows she’s in serious condition and carries her through the rain to a hospital overflowing with the sick and without room for her. He leaves her under her young grandson’s care as he runs from hospital to hospital to try and find one that will admit her, but none of them will listen to him without money up front.
Shin-young spots San running as she leaves one of the hospitals with Byeo-ri, since she cut her hand trying to get away from Chi-ho earlier. She barely catches a glimpse of him before she suddenly finds herself under the cover of an umbrella, Love Rain style, since it’s Chi-ho holding it over her.
Meanwhile, San has no choice but to return to Bookie Gong and ask for his money back. “I’ll come back and work for you,” he says shakily, his lips purple from the cold. Bookie Gong laughs in his face—he knew this would happen.
Chi-ho escorts Shin-young to her car and lets her keep his umbrella in an effort to get on her good side. He even gives her his handkerchief since he saw her give hers to that elder earlier, and it’s cute how he’s trying to act all gallant even though he’s still stuttering and unsure.
She just takes what he gives coolly, without any fawning or huge displays of gratitude. Once in the car, Byeo-ri warns her (calling her unni now, aww) not to hang around with someone as bad as Chi-ho.
Even though Shin-young didn’t interview Chi-ho, she claims to bring the interview to her editor just in time to print. She starts to mention how Chi-ho deceived people into forced labor, and while her editor doesn’t hear her, another one of her colleagues does with great interest.
When she finds out that she missed a call from San she returns it immediately, thinking that she’s calling his boarding house when she’s really calling the ajumma’s restaurant.
Bookie Gong picks up, and when he figures out who she is, he’s the one to go out and meet her in one of the stolen university uniforms.
He makes up this bogus story about San using all his tuition money to help his sick mother, which would explain why Shin-young saw him running around in poor men’s clothing. But Bookie Gong is looking to extort her, since he acts all sowwy that San probably can’t see her anymore due to circumstances.
And the tactic works, since Shin-young gives him an envelope of money in an effort to help San. Bookie Gong graciously accepts on his behalf even as he tells her to keep this a secret from San, since he’s such a proud person and all. You complete asshat. You’re stealing that for yourself, aren’t you?
San’s mother visits the ajumma’s restaurant to try and find her son, but it’s the ajumma’s daughter Mi-sook who offers to take Mom to him. She’s gotta win points with Mom if she’s got a soft spot for Mom’s son, after all.
We find San playing another street basketball game for Bookie Gong against one of his lackeys, and it’s easy to tell the game is rigged because San couldn’t look any more reluctant to be playing.
Jo Hee-bong plays a gambler who put his money on San, and he calls the game fixed once San makes himself lose according to his employer’s demands. San looks like he couldn’t hate himself any more as Hee-bong demands his money back and gets thrown out because of it.
Mom is taken to the scene of the game, shocked that it’s more like outright wrestling than basketball. San isn’t in the ring because he’s followed Bookie Gong’s lackeys to an alley where they’re beating Jo Hee-bong senseless.
They invite/demand that San take part in the beating—they’re family now, aren’t they? But when San tries just talking to the gambler instead, they order him to watch while they beat him anyway.
And as the lackey beats him he looks straight at San, his words directed at him for his insubordination. I’m sure he’d love to be hitting San instead.
San finally breaks and punches the lackey holding him before launching himself at the other, throwing punch after punch as he yells that he’s got enough problems without jerks like them adding to it. “So don’t provoke me!” Punch. “I said, don’t provoke me!!” Punch.
I think he gets his point across, but Mom happens to catch the tail end of the scuffle—and things look bad from her end. She doesn’t know he had a justified reason for hitting them and screams at him, “Is this why you quit school? Is this why?! No matter what others said… I told them that they were wrong. I don’t know about anything else, but I told them that you’re not someone who’d go around beating people. But… were they telling me the truth? Did you really do all that? Bok-joo’s grandmother… did you cause her to pass away?”
Oof. The grandma San tried to save didn’t make it. Mom takes San to the hospital right as they cover grandma with a sheet. San’s friend cries out, “You killed her! You’re the one who killed my grandma! I’ll kill you myself!”
Even though his friend’s little brother tries to tell him that San came up with the money for grandma’s hospital bills, Big Brother/Bok-joo won’t listen. He accuses San of killing his grandma over and over as Mom tells him that it’s not too late—San can still live like a decent human being.
And San, having taken as much as he could, finally breaks. “What else do you want from me? What else do you all want from me?!”
Bookie Gong’s lackeys talk a big game about teaching San a lesson, but are all meek and subservient when they see him, and just get by with telling him that Shin-young called earlier.
Meanwhile, Shin-young’s editor is up in arms about the article she sent to print about Chi-ho, which the colonial censors caught hold of. He’s on a mission to stop it from ever seeing the light of day (so she must’ve said something about Chi-ho being the face of slave labor), but her colleague is on her side. There’s a way for her to get her story past the censors…
So Shin-young prints her article on flyers and orders some guys to disperse them among the people. San finds her outside the printing office while wearing his usual university student disguise, his expression more grave than usual.
Chi-ho’s agent/friend/secretary/wizard/chauffeur/hyung (seriously, I don’t know what his job title is) is an actual student of Kyeongseong University, and because of classes he won’t be at Chi-ho’s beck and call for the day.
Among his warnings for Chi-ho to stay out of trouble is an official notice handed down by the Japanese government that Korean citizens switch to Japanese names, something Chi-ho doesn’t want to do, and something he doesn’t want his hyung to do either.
(This mandate came down strongest in 1940, and while someone wasn’t thrown in jail for not taking a Japanese name, you pretty much had to have one if you wanted to work in a professional field. The idea was to assimilate Koreans into the colonial state and strip them of their cultural identity as per one of Japan’s favored slogans of this time, “Japan and Korea as One Body.”)
Shin-young shows San the article she’s secretly disseminating on Chi-ho as a symbol of national betrayal, now that she knows about Byeo-ri’s story. San questions whether Chi-ho really did such a thing, but offers Shin-young his help in spreading the flyers around town.
Takeshi couldn’t be any happier to officially change his name to the Japanese one he’s been using this whole time. But he finds one of the flyers on Chi-ho while he’s out, which bears the title, “Min Chi-ho’s Two Faces.”
When he shows up to practice, he tells Chi-ho that he might as well have two names if he’s got two faces, a reference Chi-ho doesn’t yet understand. In lieu of that, he pulls a prank on Takeshi by suggesting a more unique Japanese name for him, which when written down and translated into Korean means “Son of a bitch.” Ha.
Takeshi is a big talker when it comes to the whole “Japan and Korea as One Body” thing, and Chi-ho challenges him on that—how can they be one? Chi-ho: “Just live with the name you were given. Shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself?”
That’s when Takeshi pulls out The Article: “Even though I may change my name, I don’t scheme people like you do.” He reads it aloud for all the players, accusing Chi-ho of deceiving poor Koreans from rural areas into forced labor camps for the Japanese government.
And the writer, much to Chi-ho’s chagrin, is none other than Shin-young. Huh. She printed her name with it?
Daddy Choi meets with the Japanese Inspector General, whose party he attended earlier. He’s a menacing man, and one of his first questions posed to Daddy Choi is about him not yet sporting a Japanese name, which Choi claims is just because he felt like he wasn’t ready for such an honor.
He’s stalling on the official switch, and the general knows it. Still, he owes Daddy Choi for getting rid of the shantytown protestors and asks him what he wants, which causes Daddy Choi to write Myul Sa Bong Gong in blood, literally meaning “self-annihilation for the sake of one’s country.”
In this context, he’s pretty much saying that he’ll sacrifice anything for his goal, and that goal is to grow his company far beyond the borders of Korea and into Manchuria. All to repay the emperor’s blessing, of course.
And since he’s just spent all this time kissing Japanese butt, it comes as a bad surprise to him when he reads The Article—the one that Japanese censors didn’t want printed—with his daughter as the author.
San and Shin-young go for a romantic drive, but San makes the mistake of placing his hand over hers while she’s driving to say that he was glad he could do this much for her (why does this sound like a goodbye?), right before she loses concentration and crashes into a pole.
It’s a minor crash, and San shields her from the worst of it. They’re both unharmed.
Chi-ho tries to find Shin-young at her office at the same time Japanese officers come in to shut the magazine down because of the flyers. He leaves with her address.
As San and Shin-young walk home, he mentions how he’s still in shock about Chi-ho’s true nature and confesses that Chi-ho was his role model. His goal was to one day play basketball just like Chi-ho, but since he lost his opportunity to play basketball, his world has come crumbling down around him.
Shin-young thinks he’s so down because of his sick mother, but she zips it before he catches on to what she’s thinking—Bookie Gong told her to keep it a secret, after all.
San drops her off at her home, a palatial mansion that has him nearly gaping. He’s awkward about a goodbye, and can’t help but think back to one of the lackeys sighing that a rich girl like her is a life-saver for a guys like them.
Unaware that Chi-ho has arrived at her house in the meantime, San suddenly works up the nerve to march up to Shin-young and kiss her.
The production team definitely took a risk in using such a fresh-faced young cast to headline a blockbuster show like this, and for the most part I’d say it’s paying off. San and Chi-ho are turning out to be great characters with interesting trajectories I can really get behind, whether it’s San trying to maintain his integrity despite his circumstances, or Chi-ho trying to do the same through his own separate but not totally dissimilar circumstances.
They’re two sides of the same coin, and I appreciate that their differences aren’t being boiled down to something as simple as a rich/poor dynamic or a class divide. Normally when we get such an upright hero we tend to get a second lead who must be the exact opposite, and while Chi-ho may be a little rougher around the edges he always comes off as honest and true to himself. He may have everything that San ever wanted but he’s not much happier for it, and while he’s not the type to fight colonial oppression out in the streets, it’s clear that Chi-ho isn’t someone like Takeshi (whose name explains exactly how he feels about their colonial rulers). He took offense when a photographer mistook him for being Japanese, he won’t want to change his name, and he went on a one man mission to change Byeo-ri’s mind because she called him a Japanese puppet.
That’s why it was so important for Chi-ho to have Byeo-ri see him play, because in his mind she’d somehow see him as an individual, as a man whose skills are solely his own and not for political exploit. Judging by his reaction to seeing his face on the flyer that led Byeo-ri’s father to his death, Chi-ho had no idea his image was being used for something so sinister. His character has been set up in such a way that it seems almost certain that Chi-ho would have never agreed to that endorsement had he known in advance.
Which brings us around to Shin-young’s character, whom I just can’t connect with and/or buy. Maybe it’s because the show rushed the romance, but I failed to get a sense for how important Shin-young’s reporting job was to her. In one scene she’d say it was important, while in the other she’d just use her time at work to wait for San’s call, completely disregarding her chief duty at the time (to interview Chi-ho).
It was like she suddenly couldn’t care less about anything but San, which is fine if we’re going to go that route, but then we lose a sense of balance. It felt so left field to have her suddenly become this justice hound intent on getting the truth out by any means necessary with regard to Chi-ho, and to make matters worse, it wasn’t even the truth. And if she genuinely felt that Chi-ho fully endorsed sending his countrymen to labor camps, why couldn’t she do some reporting and ask him about it with the umpteen opportunities she had to do so? Wouldn’t you want to be sure of what you’re publishing if you’re going through such lengths to make sure your voice is heard?
Maybe if Shin-young got a chance to just be a reporter first and foremost, this conflict with her job and Chi-ho could have been more interesting. It makes me wish the romance hadn’t become so prominent so fast, especially when I’m not feeling any pull between Do Ji-han and Lee Elijah—and even if I could tentatively buy San’s premature infatuation, that impulse kiss was still all kinds of too soon.
But it does make me wonder, if the hero and heroine kiss and the second lead isn’t there to see it, does it make an impact?
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